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Alabama – Notre Dame: The Keys For The Irish

gfx - by the numbersAs promised in our first post today, we wanted to alert you to some hidden stats that might provide Notre Dame with a bit of an advantage against Alabama in tonight’s BCS Championship Game.  Unfortunately for Irish fans, there really aren’t that many.

We looked at how the two teams performed away from home in 2012.  Notre Dame actually did better away from South Bend in terms of scoring (22.8 points per game at home and 30.7 points per game on the road).  But Alabama was also better away from its home field and the Tide did more scoring than the Irish overall (38.3 points per game at home and 38.7 points per game away from home).

In terms of sacks and sacks allowed, Notre Dame can claim a small edge, but not by much.  Notre Dame averaged 2.75 sacks per game while Bama averaged 2.54 per game.  The Irish allowed 1.3 sacks per contest while the Tide gave up 1.7 per game.

Time of possession, maybe?  Notre Dame was #9 in the nation and controlled the clock for 32:34 per game.  But Alabama ranked #23 and held the ball for an average of 31:49 per game on the season.  That’s not exactly a night and day difference.

Third down conversions?  Notre Dame was at 47.3% for the year.  Alabama converted 46.7% of its third downs.

Third down defense?  Notre Dame allowed just 34.5% of third downs to be converted.  Bama was better at 32.4%.

Ah, but finally we found a spot where the Fighting Irish do have a clear advantage — red zone defense.  Notre Dame opponents scored touchdowns only eight times in 33 trips inside the Irish red zone (24.2%).  Alabama’s red zone defense wasn’t nearly as strong.  The Tide gave up 14 touchdowns in 27 opponents’ red zone trips.  But when you factor in red zone offense, Notre Dame’s advantage disappears.

Alabama has scored touchdowns on 71.9% of its red zone visits (41 TDs in 57 trips).  Notre Dame has scored touchdowns on just 46.5% of its red zone trips (27 TDs in 58 trips).  So while the Irish have actually been stronger in red zone defense, they’ve been worse in red zone offense.  Therefore, it’s hard to call the red zone war anything but a push.

Realizing that there were few areas — at least on paper — where Brian Kelly’s team holds an advantage, we turned our attention toward both teams’ tightest contests.  In doing so we found that there do appear to be four keys to hanging with Nick Saban’s bunch.

Alabama played three games all season that were decided by five points or less: a 21-17 win over LSU, a 29-24 loss to Texas A&M, and a 32-28 win over Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.  Here’s what’s interesting about those games:


*  Those contests were the only three times all season that Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron failed to hit the 140 mark in quarterback rating.

*  Those were the only three foes to rush for more than 100 yards against the Tide (139 for LSU, 165 for A&M, and 113 for UGA).

*  LSU, Texas A&M, and Georgia had the only three quarterbacks to post passer ratings of higher than 129 against Bama.

*  Those were also three of the four contests in which Alabama lost the turnover battle (minus-2 versus LSU, minus-3 versus Texas A&M, minus-1 versus Georgia, as well as minus-1 in a win over Florida Atlantic).


If form holds, Notre Dame needs to get an efficient night out of sophomore passer Everett Golson, a player who’s been benched five times this season for various reasons.

Notre Dame’s defense — #21 in the country — will need to keep McCarron out of his comfort zone.  That’s no easy feat.

Obviously, the Irish will need to have their ground game rolling tonight.  For a team averaging 202 yards per game on the ground, hitting the century mark shouldn’t be too troublesome.  But if Notre Dame can’t throw the ball, Saban’s team will clamp down on a one-dimensional run game.  If the Irish fail to rush for 100 yards, quite simply, they’ll be routed.

Finally, Notre Dame is going to need some breaks in the turnover battle.  When the Tide has struggled this year, turnovers have been involved.  The Irish need to force fumbles and pick off passes — all the while protecting the ball when they have it — if they’re to be victorious in Miami tonight.

One, two, three, four keys.  All easier said than done.


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Are you going to the game?  Have you had the opportunity to go to any of the previous BCS Championship games that include SEC teams?

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator



No, I'm actually sitting with my leg propped up and ice around it due to a quad strain.  Not fun.  But the website is actually a side job for me.  My main job -- television -- makes travel in or around weekends tough.


Thanks for reading the site,



In other words we could be looking at a repeat of last year.  LSU couldn't throw the ball deep and Alabama loaded up 8-9 in the box the whole game.

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